By JD Lagrange – Unless management knows something that we don’t know (which is an obvious possibility), there seems to be a bit of a clutter at the forwards’ position on the Montreal Canadiens. With training camp less than a month away, it appears as though team General Manager Kent Hughes still has some work to do in order to bring his roster down to a respectable number.
Capfriendly is showing that the Canadiens are currently sitting at $6.1 million over the cap with a roster of 21 players, the league minimum. Ironically, that’s almost the salary of newly acquired center Sean Monahan ($6.375 million). But the cap isn’t as big of a deal as it may seem. With the news that Carey Price is unlikely to be playing this upcoming season, that will allow the Canadiens to place his $10.5 million contract on LTIR. Also, it seems like Paul Byron ($3.4 million) might also be missing some substantial time at the start of the season.
The trade of Shea Weber’s contract forcing the addition of Evgenii Dadonov adds a forward to the group. The acquisition of Kirby Dach at the Draft, and the trade for Sean Monahan, have added some much needed depth at center for the Canadiens. While both come with question marks, it also adds to the number of forwards as well. So here’s what we’re looking at right now:
|Cole Caufield||Nick Suzuki||Brendan Gallagher|
|Jonathan Drouin||Sean Monahan||Josh Anderson|
|Mike Hoffman||Christian Dvorak||Evgenii Dadonov|
|Paul Byron (?)||Kirby Dach||Joel Armia|
|Rem Pitlick||Jake Evans|
We’re talking about 16 forwards (15 if you don’t count Byron). Seemingly and arguably, only Armia ($3.4 million), Evans ($1.7 million), Pezzetta ($750,000) and maybe Pitlick ($1.1 million) could be considered fourth line players. All but perhaps Pezzetta have shown to be good third line players.
Further, who do you move from center to the wing? Suzuki? No way. Monahan? Nah, too good on faceoffs and he and Dvorak are the best centers not named Suzuki. It leaves Dach or Evans. Dach is definitely not a fourth line player so that leaves Evans centring that line. Logically, Dach is the most likely to make the switch to the wing. But they acquired him as a center. The acquisition of Monahan threw a wrench in that idea. No doubt that the mid to long term plan is for Dach to play center but he could have to start the season on the wing, pending trades or injuries.
In order to cut on forwards, there are a couple of options available. You can try sending Pezzetta down to Laval but he must clear waivers. He may clear, but he may not and he’s a rare mix of speed and grit for a fourth line, an energy guy.
Another option is to start Slafkovsky in Laval. That’s a strong possibility but all will depend on how he does at camp and in pre-season games. If he proves to be NHL-ready, I can see him on the third line with Dvorak and Gallagher, two great veterans to help him out.
The last option would be to complete a trade. Rumours have been circling around Dvorak but that would be a huge risk for the Canadiens. We don’t know how Monahan’s hips will react and he’s a pending UFA, meaning that he could be gone by trade deadline or in the summer. We also don’t know, at this time, if Dach will pan out as a good center in this league or not, and if he can stay healthy. Dvorak is a good insurance policy and he produced 0.70 points per game under Martin St-Louis, third most after Caufield and Suzuki.
Trading Mike Hoffman would be the logical solution and my colleague Bob Trask recently published a few potential destinations for him. Ideally, trading him for a right-handed defenseman with experience would kill two birds with one stone.
As you can see, there are some unanswered questions and there is still some work to do in order to prepare for this upcoming season. The good news? Rookie camp is a couple of weeks away!